July 9, 2019
On 7 July 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (“AfCFTA Agreement” or “the Agreement”). The Agreement seeks to create a single market for goods and services by facilitating free movement of goods, services and investment within the African Continent.
On 21 March 2018, the African Union (AU) introduced the AfCFTA Agreement. The Agreement is anchored on Article 3 of the Constitutive Act of the AU, which seeks to accelerate the political and socio-economic integration of the African Continent. The AfCFTA Agreement became effective on 30 May 2019.
The Agreement is an attempt by the AU to achieve a continental integration, which will allow for free movement of persons, capital, goods and services, with the aim of achieving economic integration, promoting agricultural development, food security, industrialization and structural economic transformation in the African continent.
It currently has three Protocols: Protocol on Trade in Goods, Protocol on Trade in Services, and Protocol on Rules and Procedures on the Settlement of Disputes. These Protocols contain provisions on tariff concessions, customs co-operation, mutual administrative assistance, elimination of technical barriers to trade amongst other provisions, which are binding on signatory countries.
Since March 2018, 54 of 55 member states of the AU have become signatories to the Agreement, with Nigeria being the 53rd Country to sign.
With the signing of the AfCFTA Agreement, Nigeria together with the other signatory states have committed to a progressive elimination of import duties and other non-tariff barriers on imports within the African continent. We expect the signatory countries to continue negotiations with respect to the tariff and other customs concessions, which are to become applicable in the various jurisdictions.
However, it is important to note that Section 12 of Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides that an international treaty or agreement would not automatically apply to Nigeria unless the agreement or treaty is ratified or domesticated by an Act of the National Assembly. Thus, it is expected that the National Assembly would ratify the agreement soon to ensure that it becomes operational in Nigeria.
We will issue a detailed publication on the AfCFTA in due course.